Backstage

by Kyla Houbolt

When nightrain comes the water creatures play.
They are not the song of garbage can lids
nor will they dance in the lights of cars.
They find hidden alleys, lost yards.
Abandonment pleases them.
They sing in secret,
praise and preen long gray bodies,
dance for the sweet mud,
wonder what lives
behind dark windows,
swear up hard oaths of thunder,
own it all.



____


Kyla Houbolt lives in Catawba territory, so-called Gastonia, NC. She published two chapbooks in 2020: Dawn's Fool in March, and Tuned in November. Links to acquire those are on her website, https://www.kylahoubolt.com/, as are links to digitally published individual pieces. When she isn't making poems she's making gardens.

Eel Facts

by Taylor Brunson

What’s electric, uneeled, 
is a knifefish. In a pulse,
language, a reading

of the room. The electric eel
is shaped like an eel. 
The electric eel will produce

electricity like a knifefish.
I tell you how electric
eels swim backwards

and forwards, thriving
in stagnant water, ribbon
of a fin making its own

waves. How electric eels 
have taught me how little
it means to be named

and unnamed, whether
there is a peace to be made 
between what others make

of you and what you know
of yourself. Stunning
unribbon, unblade, unfish,

uneel. Electric, homing
where a threat can be carried
furthest. I know what you are

but what am I if I cannot cut
the water, here in the place
where I can be called anything.



____

Taylor Brunson is a poet living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, whose work has recently been featured in or is forthcoming from Non.Plus Lit, perhappened, Dwelling Literary, Horse Egg Literary, and Interstellar Literary Review. Taylor serves as an assistant poetry editor for Four Way Review and an assistant nonfiction editor for Nashville Review.

The Wonders of Nature

by Taylor Brunson

	René Magritte, 1953

Yes, erosion, many-mouthed and tender, undresses 
us, but I promise I will stay with you until the end. 

I would rather our slow unwinding than what is taken 
by every ship sailed, and days’ annual stretching

toward what I am afraid to hope for. Yes, the season returns 
the sun, sharpening its gaze with each passing year, blue-lipped

seas drawing closer. I am sorry for the length of this lesson—
that I asked you to turn our backs to the water, every other fish 

glistering like precious stones, and how willing you were 
to avert your eyes. It has taken me so long to turn into you,

ready to be unmade under wide-tongued tides, but I promise
the future is swelling to meet us. What is left for the fish

thrown back if not a world warming over, forever
hooked? Please. I promise I cannot let you go.



____
Taylor Brunson is a poet living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, whose work has recently been featured in or is forthcoming from Non.Plus Lit, perhappened, Dwelling Literary, Horse Egg Literary, and Interstellar Literary Review. Taylor serves as an assistant poetry editor for Four Way Review and an assistant nonfiction editor for Nashville Review.

Sweet Things

by Marjorie Moorhead

Upright and tight fisted. 
Poised to release. 
Each pink peony bud,
potential enclosed; 
vitality condensed.

In June, solstice coming, 
each will open, spill forth 
beauty and fragrance 
like fireworks; 
bright booming blooms. 

Then, weighty petals 
flutter down pooling 
on garden ground; 
stems arching
in summer's night, 
making way for the next 
sweet thing.



____

Marjorie Moorhead: I am writing from northern New England, and my work is very connected to the geography and changing seasons. I am a survivor of the early AIDS epidemic (before treatment), and my work often looks at ways of survival. I have two chapbooks, Survival: Trees, Tides, Song and Survival Part 2: Trees, Birds, Ocean, Bees, and am represented in many different anthologies, and on several literary sites. I meet regularly with a small group of poets from the area, although we’ve been zooming since the pandemic. Same with a women’s prompt writing circle. I am a mother, wife, daughter, birdwatcher, walker who hopes to keep growing as a poet person. Read more of Marjorie’s work here.

A Variation on a Recipe

by Ray Ball

There is not a single clean knife in my kitchen, so I have to use 
my nails to peel the garlic. I spent days learning all the words for different

species of plants and birds in a language I dream of speaking fluently— 
truthfully, if you asked me, in my mother tongue, to identify

trees in the arboretum or to point to a rose of Sharon I would 
still fail your test. Exotic and domestic birds in the bestiary cry out,

begging me to recognize their songs, to pluck them by the neck 
from my deck of cards. Pliny wrote about the partridge: 

all this libidinous bird wants to do is to fuck and fuck. I don’t 
believe I’ve ever tasted partridge, but I have heard its meat is bland, 

so, even though it’s chicken I’m cooking, I mince several cloves.



____

Ray Ball currently lives on the land of the Dena’ina, where she works as a history professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She is the author of four books, including the chapbooks Tithe of Salt (Louisiana Literature, 2019) and Lararium (Variant Lit, 2020). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including descant, GlassOrange Blossom Review, and Waccamaw and have received multiple nominations for Pushcart and Best of the Net. She is an associate editor at Coffin Bell and an assistant editor at Juke Joint. You can find her on Twitter @ProfessorBall.

My Mother Renames the Colors

by Amorak Huey

§ Nearby storm; or, a puckering of wind.

§ The heart, gratified.

§ Tangled-hair.

§ Encroaching city: parking-lot-in-summer.

§ Inhale, smoke, spark. 

§ Page by candleflicker.

§ Pond’s last water, evaporated. 

§ Radiosong, between stations.

§ The next morning; the oak uprooted; the spidering dirt.

§ Aching muscles, the work that made them.

§ The body; a body; not the only body.

§ Distant son.

§ Spinning planet, lost marble / the years it takes. 

§ Impossible sky.



____

Amorak Huey’s fourth book of poems is Dad Jokes from Late in the Patriarchy (Sundress Publications, 2021). Co-author with W. Todd Kaneko of the textbook Poetry: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology (Bloomsbury, 2018) and the chapbook Slash/Slash (Diode, 2021), Huey teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

episiotomy poem

by Chiara Di Lello

I broke out of your body
they told you I had to

for years I knew nothing
of suture or seep – 

I believe the tale you tell 
of the male doctor who had
no faith in supple or stretch
and leapt instead 
for the certainty of slice

I left it wounded, the bone
cradle you wrapped around me

If it were me, opened 
and sewed up again
would the memory ever sound
like anything but blade?

If it were someone 
who did it, not something
would their face turned toward me
not always say knife?

behind my eyes turns
a tiny, vicious machinery
what you keep from me
moves the wheels

I broke out of your body
you tell me I had to
it happened to me
but I happened to you



____

Chiara Di Lello is a writer and teacher whose work has appeared in Best New Poets, Noble / Gas Qtrly, Little Patuxent Review, and Yes Poetry, among others. She delights in public art, public libraries, and biking through New York City.

Abundance

by Lane Fields

The road cuts through halls of trees, snakes
through my hometown. See the signposts
for creeks and bisecting lanes named for broods

that never left the county. See tumbledown
two-room homesteads with John Deere
riding mowers chained to posts out back.

See stucco fortresses with their balustrade-lined
balconies and iron gates. See the fields
extend far beyond the view of the road,

acres stretching out and away from
developed land. See the blood-wet corpse
of a fawn in the gutter, its mother aching

somewhere in the clearing, surrounded
by birches, watchful owls, and hum of
cicadas, late summer’s abundant song.



____

Lane Fields is a queer, trans poet living in Boston and a student of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Lane’s poetry is forthcoming or has appeared in places such as Hobart, Yemassee, The New Southern Fugitives, and Tupelo Press’s 30/30 Project. You can follow Lane on Instagram at @lane.fields or Twitter at @ohwowitslane.

River Suite

by Lane Fields

 
I.
 
as the body yields
to a knife, so the land
             cedes to the river—

II.
 
my body became the river,
wound-wet; gored by grace
             -ful fingers, subdued;
 
from my chest came
a congregation, flurry of white
             birds; my body ached
 
with its gift—

III.
 
I am suspended with
thirst for the river, I know
             all of its names;
 
I speak to it, tender as a
lover, & it does the same;
             it calls me back
 
to the boy I never was,
calls me beautiful with
             its hundred tongues,

calls me past the field
of forgetting, calls me
             home.



____


Lane Fields is a queer, trans poet living in Boston and a student of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Lane’s poetry is forthcoming or has appeared in places such as Hobart, Yemassee, The New Southern Fugitives, and Tupelo Press’s 30/30 Project. You can follow Lane on Instagram at @lane.fields or Twitter at @ohwowitslane.

Margate Main Sands on Christmas Day

by Anna Harvey

Christmas, and I drip out of a borrowed raincoat
Glasses speckling tidal spray
I am hungover, and the walk is entirely failing
to blow the cobwebs away
The day is an unfinished line
unravelling itself into the horizon
I am a thread loose of its spool
I want to be a whole shell – want to
unfurl myself onto the sand: widen,
be as big as the great grey skies
reflected in the sea;
which only throws
my own roar
back at me

____

Dr. Anna Harvey is a medical doctor in Cumbria, England.